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经济学人:电子书 翻开新篇章

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Business

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E-readers
电子书
Turning the page
翻开新篇章
Microsoft and Barnes & Noble write their own love story
微软公司与巴诺公司握手言和,共谱传奇
LAST July Barnes & Noble gave a presentation to the antitrust division of America's Department of Justice. In slide after slide, the bookseller laid into Microsoft. The software giant, it thundered, was guilty of "anti-competitive behaviour" in demanding royalties from makers of mobile devices (such as the Nook, Barnes & Noble's e-reader) that used Android, Google's open-source mobile operating system. The bookseller sniffed that Microsoft owned only "trivial" patents and reminded the department of the software company's past trespasses against competition.
去年七月,美国图书零售商巴诺公司为联邦司法部的反垄断局做过一次演讲。随着幻灯片逐张翻过,巴诺公司指责微软公司的意图也显露了出来。在指责中,软件巨头微软公司被认为通过"垄断性"战略强迫向移动设备制造收取版权税。使用了谷歌开源系统——安卓系统的产品都在受影响之列,其中就包括巴诺公司的电子阅读器Nook。不过这个图书零售公司也敏锐的发现微软公司持有的都是些"无足轻重的"专利,他们通过演讲让司法部门想起了微软公司过去竞争中表现出的侵略性行为。
Nine months later, the bookworms and the geeks are the best of friends. On April 30th Barnes & Noble said it was creating a subsidiary, called NewCo for now, into which it would put Nook and its "college" business, which has 641 bookshops on American campuses. Microsoft is putting up $300m for 17.6% of NewCo. People will be able to buy and read e-books through a Nook application for Windows 8, a new incarnation of Microsoft's operating system that is due to appear in a few months. Microsoft will pay NewCo an advance of $180m over three years for such purchases, plus $125m over five years to buy content and develop technology. The squabbles over patents have been settled: Microsoft is giving Barnes & Noble a licence for the Nook and will get royalties in return. For now at least, the Nook will remain an Android, not Windows, device.
九个月之后,书虫和技术宅成为了最好的朋友。4月30号,巴诺公司声明正在创建一家子公司,并由其代行Nook销售业务以及校园业务。现在名为NewCo的这家子公司已经在美国大学中有641家书店。微软花3亿美元购买了NewCo公司17.6%的股权。不久的将来,人们将可以通过Nook应用程序在windows 8操作系统上购买并阅读电子书。Nook的windows版本即将于几月后推出。微软将向NewCo支付1.8亿美元作为三年的购买费用,同时还支付了1.25亿美元购买五年的内容和技术升级。关于知识产权的争端也得以解决:微软为巴诺的Nook阅读器提供授权,而巴诺则向微软支付版权税。不过至少目前,Nook仍是在安卓设备上运行,而非windows。
The agreement values NewCo at $1.7 billion, more than twice Barnes & Noble's market capitalisation before it was announced. The bookseller's share price rose by 50% on the day of the deal—which tells you what investors think of the dead-tree end of the trade. The alliance should bring Barnes & Noble not only cash but also new readers of digital books and magazines, especially outside the United States. In the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Tom Mainelli of IDC, a research firm, Barnes & Noble accounted for one-fifth of the 7m e-readers shipped in America—against a mighty three-quarters for Amazon, maker of the Kindle (see chart). But Barnes & Noble shipped no Nooks elsewhere, which helps explain why it had only 14% of the global market. Via the Nook app, non-Americans will also be able to leaf through Barnes & Noble's digital catalogue.
NewCo的最终协议价格是17亿美元,比这个项目被宣布之前,巴诺的市值高出两倍还多。完成交易的当天,图书零售商的股价上升了50%,这足以说明投资者是如何看待这项老树开新花的交易的。联合的战略不仅将为巴诺公司带来现金,更将增加电子书与电子杂志的读者数量,在美国之外更是如此。根据市场研究机构IDC的Tom Mainelli所述,美国本土销售的7百万电子阅读器中,巴诺公司的产品占了1/5——与之相对的是亚马逊公司生产的Kindle阅读器:该产品的销售占了美国本土交易的3/4(见图表)。不过巴诺公司没有在其他地方销售Nook产品,这也解释了为什么该产品只占全球14%的市场。通过Nook应用程序,美国之外的用户也能够翻阅巴诺公司的电子目录。
Microsoft is in effect buying a second bash at a market where it made an early but unsuccessful start. It launched its own e-reader software all of 12 years ago. The deal with Barnes & Noble, bringing lots of content with it, may give people an extra reason to buy Windows 8 tablets (a likelier choice for e-reading than smartphones, laptops or desktops) when they appear.
微软公司已是第二次涉足电子书市场,而它首次进入时并不成功。12年前,它曾经推广过自家的电子阅读软件。现在与巴诺公司达成的协议也充实了微软自家阅读器软件中的内容,用户们因此有更多的理由在windows 8平板面世后选购它们。与智能手机、笔记本和台式机相比,运行着Window 8操作系统的平板产品与电子阅读器的相似度更高。
The bundling of Barnes & Noble's college business into NewCo indicates a hope that a fair few of these customers will be students. Allen Weiner of Gartner, another research firm, suggests that through campus bookshops Barnes & Noble could sell Windows devices pre-loaded with course material. Of course, others are after students' dollars too. Apple recently started selling interactive digital textbooks for the iPad, far and away the biggest-selling tablet (among its publishing partners is Pearson, part-owner of The Economist). But Mr Weiner points out that Microsoft and Barnes & Noble have some advantages. Lots of students write notes and essays with Microsoft's Office software, which is not available on the iPad. And although Amazon sells and rents a lot of paper textbooks, it has not done much with digital ones. The tie-up with Barnes & Noble makes three of a kind for Microsoft: cheap deals with struggling but established partners in markets where it is weak and sees a chance to do much better. In 2009 it struck an agreement with Yahoo! in online search. Last year Nokia became the prime conduit for Windows in smartphones. With Barnes & Noble it is having another stab at e-reading. Unlike the books on the Nook, this tale is still being written.
巴诺公司在NewCo中大量捆绑自家业务的做法暗示了学生将占用户群中的很大一部分。另一家调研公司Gartner的Allen Weiner建议道,巴诺公司可以在校园内销售一些预装了教材的windows产品。当然,其他的阅读材料还是需要学生花钱购买的。苹果公司近期开始销售ipad上使用的数字互动教材,ipad是最畅销的平板产品。经济学人的持股人皮尔逊公司也是这些数字互动教材的发布方之一。但是Weiner先生指出微软公司与巴诺公司也有自己的优势。大量的学生利用微软的office软件书写笔记与评论,但是ipad却不能运行office软件。而尽管亚马逊借出并销售大量的纸质版教材,但是在数字产品上,他还远远落后于竞争对手。与巴诺公司的联合把微软公司拉到了与ipad,亚马逊同一起跑线的位置:在自身影响力不足但是未来前景广阔的市场上与一家比较成熟,但还有些小问题的公司廉价建立了联系。在2009年,微软公司成功与雅虎签订在线搜索业务方面的协议。去年诺基亚成为了让windows系统进驻智能手机的主要途径。而与巴诺公司的合作一定可以让微软公司在电子阅读器市场扎稳脚步。与Nook的故事不同,这段新传奇正被续写。

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